As SAG-AFTRA sits down today for the first day of bargaining with the ad industry for a new commercials contract, the union has taken out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal urging advertisers and ad agencies “to do the right thing. When you make an ad, make it union.”
The union’s ad (see it below) features the names of 81 of the more than 5,000 of its members – including Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Carrell, Jennifer Aniston, Tina Fey, Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Carol Burnett, Julie Andrews and Octavia Spencer – who have signed a petition in support of SAG-AFTRA’s ongoing strike against the Bartle Bogle Hegarty ad agency.
“We stand united with our fellow performers who work in commercials who seek fair wages, safe sets, access to health care and a meaningful pension,” the ad says.
SAG-AFTRA struck BBH on September 20 after the ad agency declared that after 20 years it was no longer a signatory to the union’s commercials contract. Since then, the 160,000-member performers union has tried to force the agency to re-sign its contract through mass rallies, picketing, NLRB complaints, celebrity endorsements and shaming.
The union’s ad in the Journal comes a day after a casting notice for General Motors, one of the biggest TV advertisers, was posted by Frontier Casting seeking a dozen non-union actors to work on a GMC Internet and social media commercial. “Union Status: Non-Union,” the notice states. It’s currently casting in Los Angeles for five shoot days in the first weeks of March.
SAG-AFTRA’s current contract with the advertising industry, which expires March 31, generates more than $1 billion a year for its members, but those numbers have been in decline in recent years because of the rise of non-union productions.
Advertisers and ad agencies that use union actors for their commercials already are gearing up for a possible strike. Stacy Marcus, the ad industry’s chief negotiator, in October urged new productions to “consider re-scheduling production planned for April 1, 2019, through June 2019 to a date well prior to March 31, 2019. This is of particular concern if you are planning production for the rollout of a new campaign or are planning a celebrity production.”
SAG-AFTRA declined comment, saying that it is “abiding by the blackout” that both sides have agreed to leading up to today’s start of negotiations.
SAG and AFTRA, prior to their merger in 2012, last struck the ad industry in 2000; it lasted six months. Before that, they struck the industry for 26 days in 1988, for 51 days in 1978-79 and for 80 days in 1952-53.